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Cold comfort

Stop the naysaying and try chilled Mexican melon soup



"There are two kinds of people in this world," says Bill Murray in the movie What About Bob?, explaining why he's divorced. "Those who like Neil Diamond and those who don't. My ex-wife loves Neil Diamond."

It's a line that's become part my family's unique lexicon, an inside joke we repeat to each other with endless variations: "There are two kinds of people in this world those who like (blue eye shadow, Britney Spears, mullets, NASCAR) and those who don't. My (ex-boy- or girlfriend, roommate, co-worker) loves ..."

Cold soup is among those things that divide people into two camps. There are a surprising number who just don't like it, no matter what kind or at least they think they don't. Many haven't ever even tried it. It's the idea of cold soup they don't like.

There are dessert soups, which are basically fruit pures, and savory cold soups, which come in a wide variety of tastes and textures. Some are rich and creamy, others light and refreshing. Some are cooked, then chilled. Others require no cooking at all.

Mexican melon soup combines elements of the best cold soups. It contains fruit, in the form of cantaloupe, although the sweet fruitiness of the cantaloupe doesn't dominate. Yogurt adds richness while keeping the soup light and refreshing. Best of all, there's no standing over a hot stove.

Even if you've always shuddered at the idea of cold soup, I challenge you to take the plunge. Try some on a sweltering late-summer day and discover just how comforting cold soup can be.

Mexican Melon Soup

1 ripe cantaloupe

Come on  whaddya have to lose? Try some cold soup.
  • Come on whaddya have to lose? Try some cold soup.

1 tablespoon lime juice, or to taste

cup minced mild onion

cup peeled, seeded and diced cucumber

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, preferably white, or to taste

1 cup plain yogurt, preferably whole-milk

4 cups canned tomato juice (do not juice fresh tomatoes; they dont give the proper thickness)

For garnishes: toasted pepita (pumpkin) seeds, chili powder, crisply fried bacon bits, slivered fresh basil, chopped fresh cilantro, finely diced cantaloupe and cucumber, finely sliced chives or scallions, crabmeat, small cooked shrimp, or coarsely chopped cooked lobster.

Over a large bowl to catch the juice, scoop out enough cantaloupe to measure 2 cups, pressing the flesh down in the measuring cup so that it is packed solidly. Put the cantaloupe and juice in the container of an electric blender. Add the lemon juice, onion, cucumber, pepper, and yogurt and pure everything until completely smooth.

Pour the mixture into a 2-quart bowl or container and whisk in the tomato juice. Check the seasoning and add a little more lime juice, salt or pepper if desired. Chill thoroughly. (If all ingredients are chilled ahead of time, you can serve the soup immediately.)

Serve in chilled bowls or glasses. Sprinkle each serving with as many or as few of the garnishes as you choose, or present a selection of garnishes in small bowls and let each diner add garnishes to his or her taste. Makes about 8 cups.

This column originally appeared in the Illinois Times.

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